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Birth Control Pills Affect Memory

Women who use contraceptives like birth control pills experience memory changes, according to new UC Irvine research

 

Their ability to remember the gist of an emotional event improves, while women not using the contraceptives better retain details.

"What's most exciting about this study is that it shows the use of hormonal contraception alters memory," UCI graduate researcher Shawn Nielsen said. "There are only a handful of studies examining the cognitive effects of the pill, and more than 100 million women use it worldwide."

She stressed that the medications did not damage memory. "It's a change in the type of information they remember, not a deficit."

The change makes sense, said Nielsen, who works with neurobiologist Larry Cahill, because contraceptives suppress sex hormones such as estrogen and progesterone to prevent pregnancy. Those hormones were previously linked to women's strong "left brain" memory by Cahill's research group.

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